Piping 100 years ago: May 1924

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By JEANNIE CAMPBELL MBE • PART 5 • MAY

KOSB Pipe Band opens the BBC in Edinburgh on May Day

The opening of the Edinburgh Station of the British Broadcasting Co Ltd by the Lord Provost took place in the Usher Hall on May 1st at 8pm. There were speeches by Sir Alfred Ewing KCB Principal of Edinburgh University and J C W Reith esq Managing Director of the British Broadcasting Co plus a wireless concert from London, and the band and pipers of the 1st Batt KOSB.

In Aberdeen the university students’ gala week took place, starting at the beginning of May. Despite the bad weather, a torchlight procession of about 1000 students in fancy dress set off from the quadrangle of Marischal College and over two hours later after a route through the town arrived back at the quadrangle. A pipe band in the middle of the parade did sterling service, playing almost without cessation, while collectors combed the crowds watching the parade. Afterwards there was dancing in the quadrangle to the music of the pipers. A large sum of money was raised for local hospitals.

In Stromness a fancy dress parade was headed by the town’s brass band and a piper.

Edinburgh Parks Pipe Band Contest

The Edinburgh Evening News on May 2nd, had details of the Music in Edinburgh Parks Pipe Band Contest and arrangements for the season: “A pipe band contest for civilian and Territorial bands desiring engagements in the Edinburgh parks during the summer is to be held in the archery ground, East Meadows, on Saturday evening, 10th inst. The contest will commence an hour later than last year, namely six o’clock, and eight bands have entered: the 4/5th Royal Scots, 7/9th Royal Scots, City Police, Postal, Tramways, Gorgie District, Abbeyhill, and Port of Leith bands.

“Arrangements connected with the provision of music in the parks during the coming season are now practically completed. No engagement has yet been fixed up with the overseas bands. It is understood than the fees asked by these bands are higher than the Parks Committee are inclined to pay, but it is possible that one outstanding Canadian band may be engaged. On Victoria Day the band of the 7th Queen’s Own Hussars will play in Princes Street Gardens at 3 o’clock. The performances generally will not commence until June this year in the Meadows. Friday, instead of Tuesday, is suggested as the evening in order to avoid clashing with cricket matches. Owing to the meagre attendances at Saughton Park the performances will take place on Wednesday evenings instead of Saturday afternoons. Negotiations are in progress with the view of using Bathgate Park instead of Cranston Street playground for the performances for the Canongate district.”

The overseas bands referred to may be military bands rather than pipe bands. The usual practice for the Parks was to have one military or brass band and one pipe band each time.

Stonehaven aquire a new pipe band

On May 2nd the Mearns Leader, Stonehaven reported: “To vary an old proverb: ‘Them that will hae a band maun hae a band.’ Under the paternal wing of the Advertising Committee a pipe band has been formed. And, with the expert guidance of Pipe Major McDonald, the members are making creditable headway. There is every reason for believing that before the season is far advanced our visitors will be enlivened by the skirl of the bagpipes which, after all, is a sound more indigenous to the soil and traditions of a Scottish resort than the tootling of any brass band whatsoever. In congenial surroundings and at a respectful distance (this latter is important) the bagpipes provide the finest and most soul stirring music in the world. Even the Sassenach who is likely to be with us in greater numbers than ever this summer, has been known to fall under the magic spell of the pibroch. That the pipe band will presently be an acquisition to the town is not to be doubted.”

In London on Friday evening May 2nd the Annual Dinner of the London Camanachd Club was held. PM Meldrum gave pipe selections. The following day a charity concert under the auspices of the Highland and Kindred associations of London was held in the London Scottish Drill Hall. The pipe band of the London Scottish under PM Robertson contributed to the success of the concert.

On Saturday 3rd May Newarthill UF church held a sale of work. Newarthill pipe band under Pipe Major Lee were in attendance and played selections from time to time.

Inveraray Pipe Band

The Oban Times on Saturday 3rd May reported that in Inveraray the junior pipe band was again receiving tuition from Pipe Major Sutherland. He was much pleased with the progress made by the band under the teaching of Pipe Major George Mackenzie. Three pipers had been added to the band which will make it up to full strength. The Duke of Argyll is deeply interested in the welfare of this band. The Inveraray shinty team were in Oban on the previous Thursday to play a friendly against Oban Pack Battery. This was a return for the hospitality received at Inveraray on New Year’s Day. On arrival the visiting team were conducted to the Royal Hotel where tea was served. In their honour the Oban pipe band met them and played them and the Oban team both on and off the field of play. After the game both teams were entertained by the Park Battery Club where songs were sung and bagpipe selections played by pipers Angus MacIntyre and Angus MacPherson of the Oban pipe band.  A dance at the Argyllshire Gathering Hall followed before the visitors left for Inveraray.

At this time there was no pipe band association. Anyone who wished to do so could organise a pipe band contest. Each contest could make its own decisions on entry requirements, tunes to be played, the number of players and so on.

Fife Coal Company promote pipe band contest

On May 3rd the Fife Free Press had this announcement: “A Happy Idea – We understand that the Fife Coal Company are inaugurating a movement that will be of interest to all musical people, and ought to be of great benefit to the mining communities. They are promoting a pipe band contest, and it is expected that choirs will also be formed representing the various collieries, while a brass band competition will also be promoted.’

Pipes for sale

The Fife Free Press on 3rd May had this small advertisement, ‘Bagpipes, Mounted, Nickel Silver and Bleached Ivory; cost £14, sell £8. Graham, 21 Millie Street, Pathhead.’

The war memorial at St Joseph’s RC church Dundee was unveiled on 4th May. Appropriate music was contributed to the service by St Andrew’s pipe band.

Cowdenbeath Pipe Band – “Big Drummer’s Wedding Ovation”

On 4th May this was published: A pretty wedding took place at Crossgates, the bridegroom being Thos Haddow, and the bride Miss Knox, Hill of Beath. The bridegroom being the drummer of Cowdenbeath Pipe Band, the band turned out in his honour in full dress, parading in front of the church playing appropriate airs. After the ceremony they played the happy couple to the waiting taxi to the strains of I Lo’e Nae a Lassie but Ane, and preceded the taxi the full length of the village. They then went to the bride’s home and played selections.”

Barnardo Musical Boys in concert

On 4th May the Barnardo Musical Boys were reported to be in Bath. “At the Assembly Rooms on Tuesday afternoon and evening, the Barnardo Musical Boys will give concerts, including selections on the hand bells, sleigh bells, xylophones, mandolines, Highland bagpipes, musical chimes and fairy bells etc. The prices of admission are 3s, 2. 6d and 1s 3d. Tickets may be obtained from Mrs Jarvis, 7 Edward Streetand messrs Milsom and Sons Ltd; also at the Assembly Rooms Box Office.”

The concert was reviewed the following week: “A unique musical entertainment was given at the Assembly Rooms on Tuesday afternoon and evening by the Barnardo Musical Boys, who have been delighting audiences throughout the country with their versatility, and materially helping at the same time to swell is no small degree the funds of that well known children’s institution, Dr Barnardo’s Homes.

“The boys, about a dozen of them, demonstrated their skill upon hand bells, sleight bells, miniature chimes, mandolines, xylophones, fairy bells and bagpipes. Most of the boys are equally at home with any of these instruments, and considering they are boys, their skill is indeed remarkable, and reflects much credit upon Mr Wigg, the instructor. The hand bells were the instruments chiefly used at Tuesday’s performances, five boys ringing together with harmonic effect, and a deep volume of sound.

“All the selection on the hand bells were pleasingly rendered, but one item in particular far sounded impressive, this being Wagner’s Bridal Chorus from Lohengrin. The beauty and dignity of this composition seems particularly adapted to the sound produced by hand bells, and the ringers, despite the difficult rhythm, kept excellent time. Two boys performed brilliantly together on a xylophone, and at both performances the audience demanded encores. Dressed in the Scottish National Costume, three boys marched round the room, playing bagpipes, and one of their number contributed a sword dance with the real Highland flavour about it.

“The visit of the musical boys, who are under the charge of Mr George Goodfellow (deputation secretary), was the first since about 15 years ago, but their entertainment is so much out of the common, and is so pleasing, that it is hoped they will come to Bath many times in the course of the next 15 years.”

London Scottish Pipe Band on parade in Ypres

There was news from Ypres on 5th May: “In the presence of His Majesty the King of the Belgians and of Field Marshal Earl Haig, the monument to the memory of the men of the London Scottish (14th London Regiment) who fell in the war was unveiled at Wytschacte today. A detachment of Life Guards and of the London Scottish, with the regimental bagpipes, attended the ceremony. Lieut Colonel G C Knight Clowes DSO, the present Commanding Officer of the London Scottish, was in charge of the parade.”

Northumberland and Durham Caledonian Society

The Sunderland Echo on 6th May reported that the Northumberland and Durham Caledonian Society planned to organise a school to teach boys to play the bagpipes.

The Aberdeen Life Saving Scouts and Guards, winners of the Scottish Scouts’ Efficiency Shield, visited Newcastle on 6th May to give a display of physical culture. They were on a tour via Edinburgh, Newcastle, Sheffield and then to the Royal Albert Hall in London. The scouts were dressed in kilts and accompanied by pipers.

Aberfeldy Pipe Band resuscitated

There was news from Aberfeldy on 7th May: “It will be gratifying to the townsfolk to know that every effort is being made to resuscitate the Pipe Band. Permission having been kindly granted by the Territorial Army Association to use the Armoury for weekly practice, the first gathering of the pipers is to be held tonight (Wednesday). Already a number of enthusiasts in the burgh and district have volunteered their services, and it is to be hoped that many more may yet come forward. The Committee are also very keen on encouraging any prospective pipers and drummers, and are desirous of forming a beginners’ class. The office bearers of the Association are: Hon President Mr W Russell KC CB of Moness; President Provost Haggart OB JP; Vice Presidents Mr Thomas Bett, Dalnalinne; Councillor John Robertson, Beechfield; Captain C J D Munro MC, Torr Hill; and hon sec Councillor Bain, The Palace Hotel.”

Indian Army Pipe Band

And news from London on the same day: “Judging from the applause which greets them at the London Coliseum, the Indian Army Band is proving an unusually popular turn. The band is divided into two sections, one being composed of the 4th/8th Punjab Regiment, known as the Prince of Wales’s Own under the able conductorship of Bandmaster Jemadar Wazir Ali, and the other consisting of pipers and drummers of the 2/10th Baluch Regiment, led by Drum Major Natha Singh, whose splendid turban and handsome bearded face makes a striking figure.”

The Barnardo Boys were in Abertillery, South Wales, on 7th May: “An entertainment of a very unusual character was given at the Ebenezer Lecture Hall on Wednesday afternoon and evening by Dr Barnardo’s Musical Boys, in aid of the splendid Homes, founded by the late doctor, which are doing such excellent work for the destitute children of the country. The boys, ten in number, are about 14 years of age each, and their skill in the playing of such instruments as the hand bells, sleigh bells, miniature chimes, fairy bells and auto harps, as well as the mandoline, xylophone, tuberphone and Highland bagpipes were a revelation to each of their two audiences. The afternoon’s entertainment, which was attended by children only, was presided over by Mr Theophilus Evans, while Councillor T H Pritchard took the chair before a large audience of adults in the evening. The boys were accompanied by their instructor, Mr W Wigg, who was congratulated upon the excellent use he had made of the boys’ musical talents, and by Mr George Goodfellow, who delivered interesting addresses on the work of the famous institution he represents.”

Dr Barnardo’s Musical Boys had been in existence for many years and had toured widely. In 1909 in Canada the boys had been involved in a train crash. Eleven people were killed, including one of the boys and several of the boys were badly injured. Two of those injured were not expected to survive. Pipers had been part of the group since at least 1914.

Piping in Islay

In Islay a ceilidh was held in the school on Wednesday 7th May. The first item on the programme was bagpipe selections by Mr Alasdair Logan. In Kildalton a whist drive and dance was held. Among those supplying the music was piper A L MacArthur, Lagavulin.

On Friday 9th May Guthrie Social Club gave a dramatic presentation of two short plays. Other items on the programme were songs and music including bagpipe selections from Messrs John Cameron and Nicol. A short dance followed.

Variety, Revue, Galas and Fetes – Gorgeous scenery and excellent Scottish wardrobe.

The Stage, 8th May, advertised: The Famous Kilty Lassies, Vocalists, Dancers, Pipers, Drummers, including Little Alva, Comedienne, May 12th Playhouse, Miles Platting, Manchester; May 19th, Palace, Neth. The above is a scratch troupe under the command of Pipe Major Deans, LCM, MD. The Pick of Scotland. Gorgeous scenery and excellent Scottish wardrobe. Note. I have no connection with any other troupe. Coms. Deans, 90 Rusholme Rd Manchester.’

On Thursday 8th May the Boys’ Brigade Demonstration in the Royal Albert Hall had included the 1st Dublin Company’s brass band and the bagpipe band of the 1st and 11th Leith Companies playing The Road to the Isles.

On 9th May the Advertiser and Gazette reported that in Cranford a British Legion social had included whist and a programme of music, songs and humorous items. “Mr J C Paton delighted his friends with selections on the bagpipes, while his granddaughter Miss Peggy Clark danced the Highland Fling amid much applause.”

Jessie Brown and the bagpipes at Lucknow

Several papers had similar reports concerning the death of Mrs Lincoln. “Mrs Lincoln, widow of the late Frederick Lincoln, sometime District Judge of Sitapur, Oudh, was in her 87th year and when the Mutiny broke out in India in May 1857, she and her husband and two young children were stationed in Lucknow. Time has in some measure dulled Mrs Lincoln’s recollections of her terrible experiences of 66 years ago but she well remembered ‘Lucknow Kavanagh’ going out on his mission to Lord Clyde and how nothing was said about it to his wife until he was actually clear of the Residency. Mrs Lincoln always maintained that the story of Jessie Brown and the bagpipes was true, and no myth as some have since declared it to be.”

Jessie Brown had heard the bagpipes of the Scottish relieving force while they were still some distance away and a popular ballad had been made of the story.

Cowal Gathering at Wembley

On 9th May several papers had a similar article: “An invitation has been received by Mr H S Strafford, secretary of Cowal Highland Gathering, to go to London for an interview with the Wembley Exhibition authorities concerning arrangements for a Highland gathering at the Stadium. The proposal is to have games during the week when representatives of the clans from the Colonies will be visiting the Exhibition. Mr Strafford is confident that such a gathering can be arranged. Every effort, he says, will be made to secure the services of all the leading pipe bands from Scotland, champion dancers, and the best of our athletes for the great gathering.”

More followed on 10th May. “Confirmation is now to hand regarding a reproduction of the Cowal Gathering at Wembley. Mr H S Strafford secretary of the Gathering states that the Gathering will be held, as usual, at Dunoon on a date in August which has yet to be fixed. And thereafter the main body of the personnel of the Gathering will be transported to Wembley.”

In Aberdeen on May 10th a fund raising sale organised by the Episcopal churches raised £370 for missionaries. Among those taking part in addition to the various stalls were a BB brass band, a scout jazz band and a scout pipe band.

On the same day the Aberdeen Women’s Guild had a fund raising café chantant in aid of the Missions Building Fund.  £31.11s.6d was raised. Entertainment included the Oakbank boys’ Pipe Band under PM Reid.

Inveraray Castle Pipe Band

On 10th May the Oban Times reported that the membership of Inveraray Castle Pipe Band and friends had held a social and dance in the Castle Jubilee Hall on the evening of Friday last. The chairman said that thanks to the patience and ability of Pipe Major MacKenzie the pipe band had greatly improved in its playing and they were now well on the way to take their place among the first class bands of the country. He was glad to inform the members of the band how much the guests at the Castle on the previous Wednesday night had appreciated the playing of the band. During the evening there were selections from the band and from Pipe Major Sutherland who had also tutored the band members.

Edinburgh Parks Pipe Band Competition

The same evening May 10th in Edinburgh the pipe band competition advertised earlier, was held: “The annual competition promoted by Edinburgh Corporation for Territorial and civilian bands desiring engagements in the parks during the summer season was held in the Archery Grounds, East Meadows, on Saturday evening. Notwithstanding the wet weather, the competition, in which eight bands took part, attracted a large gathering of the public. The judges were Mr Donald Shaw, SSC, President of the Highland Pipers’ Society; Pipe Major Roderick Campbell, Edinburgh; Pipe Major Macnab, Royal Scots Fusiliers; and Drum Major Connolly, KOSB. Councillor White, Convener of the Parks Committee; and Baillie Fergus Harris represented the Corporation and the arrangements were in charge of Mr George Hannah, of the Town Clerk’s Office. The prize winning bands were: 1. 4/5th Royal Scots; 2. Tramways Band; 3. City Police; 4. 7/9th Royal Scots. The other competing bands were placed in the following order: 5. Postal; 6. Abbeyhill; 7.Port of Leith; 8. Gorgie.”

New Kilpatrick Pipe Band

The Bearsden war memorial was unveiled by Sir Iain Colquhoun on 10th May. A large crowd of officials, local dignitaries, youth organisations, schools, congregations and choirs from local churches, a large contingent of ex-servicemen and others gathered. The guard of honour was from the 1st Batt Royal Scots Fusiliers. The band of the 1st RSF and the New Kilpatrick Pipe Band under PM Hendry were present. The pipe band played The Flowers of the Forest while wreaths were laid. The last post was sounded followed by a minutes’ silence.

On May 12th the Yorkshire Evening Post described travelling through the Suez Canal and a concert on board the ship which included: “a bagpipe selection by Mr Logie, which brought great applause, which did not cease until he obliged with another selection.”’”

50 marks for spectacular movements, and only 10 marks for drumming

On 14th May the Edinburgh Evening News had this report: “Referring to the pipe band contest, held in the East Meadows last Saturday, a correspondent gives it as his opinion that the 4/5 Royal Scots, who gained first place, should have received 50 marks for spectacular movements, and only 10 marks for drumming. We understand that marks were given for start, time, piping, execution, drumming, marching and finish, and for all these the 4/5 Royal Scots gained the highest percentage. The marks ranged from 20 for piping to ten for drumming. A special judge was put on for the drumming, a well-known Army drum-major.”

A review of a variety show at the Camberwell Palace published on 14th May included this: “Suther is a host in himself. A musician of merit, this artist can play the bagpipes as well as he can the viola. He gives us a sample of the music of various countries, and one of the remarkable features of his entertainment is his wonderful quick change from one national costume to another. He thoroughly deserved the hearty applause accorded him.”

By 14th May the Barnardo boys were in Cardiff. Their concert was reported in the Western Mail the following day. “Estimated to have a seating capacity of over 2,000 people, Wood Street Congregational Chapel, Cardiff, was filled to its doors on Wednesday evening, when Dr Barnardo’s Musical Boys under Mr Wigg (instructor) entertained with their hand bells, sleigh bells, xylophones, mandolins, Highland bagpipes, musical chimes, fairy bells etc. The fact that the programme was something out of the ordinary, both in its composition and the instruments brought into play, made it of exceptional interest. These lads, none of whom is more than fourteen years of age, proved themselves remarkably accomplished musicians.

To use the words of the chairman, Sir James German KBE, the performance given by them was an education, and was at the same time one of the finest advertisements that could be given Dr Barnardo’s Homes. The boys are a great credit to the institution to which they belong. In addition to giving renderings of difficult works by Wagner, Elgar and Suppé, two of these lads gave delightful selections on the xylophone, Il Correcolo Galop being, perhaps the finest contribution of the evening. Mr George Goodfellow from Dr Barnardo’s Homes gave an address on “Famous Doors”.’

Wick Pipe Band

The Northern Ensign 14th May reported: “The stirring strains of the bagpipes now enliven the streets of Wick on Saturday evenings, the pipe band having resumed their practice of giving selections in the Market Place, under the leadership of Pipe Major Cumming, Bellevue Cottages.”

North of Ireland Bands’ Association

A meeting of the North of Ireland Bands’ Association was held on 15th May at which it was announced that PM D Chisholm HLI had been appointed judge of the pipe section at the Windsor contest. Rehearsals were to be held for the massed bands performance for the Sunday service. Castlereagh pipe band had signalled their intention to be present. Newtonards had two famous pipe bands, Dr Wright Memorial, PM R Barbour and Newtonards Amateur. Sir Henry Wilson Flute band belonging to the same town was a first class combination.

Stonehaven Pipe Band

On 16th May local papers reported that a recruiting rally for the 5th Bt Gordon Highlanders had been held in Stonehaven. A concert with local artistes followed. A feature of the rally was the first appearance of the Stonehaven pipe band under Pipe Major George McDonald.

On 17th May the Forres News and Advertiser reported: “In recognition of the valuable services rendered to the local Company of Territorials, Pipe Major Morrison has been presented by the pipers and drummers of the Company with a handsome timepiece. The gift was handed over by Captain Macdonald who spoke in laudatory terms of the Pipe Major’s fidelity to duty.”

On 17th May in Thurso a fancy dress parade was held despite a drizzling rain. The parade was led by the town’s pipe band under Pipe Major Donald Swanson. The sum of £36.18s 10d was raised.

Brass and pipe band contests in Cowdenbeath

The Fife Free Press on 17th May stated: “With a view to encouraging and promoting the welfare of the various bands directly connected with their collieries, the directors of the Fife Coal Co  Ltd have arranged for brass and pipe band contests to be held in the Public Park, Cowdenbeath, on Saturday 28th June next. Both contests are confined to bands connected with the Company’s collieries. Those eligible included Brass bands first section. Dunnikier Colliery, Kelty and Blairadam; second section Bowhill and District, Cowdenbeath and District, Dysart Colliery and Leven. Pipe bands, Auchterderran, Cowdenbeath and District, Hill of Beath,  Kelty and Blairadam and Lochore and Crosshill. The prize money for brass bands is £10, £8, £7, £5, £2, plus £3 and £2 for the best two of the two section bands. The prize list has been framed so that the two first section bands will not receive more than the second section bands, but to induce the latter to greater effort they can receive more than the two first section bands. Prize money for the pipe bands is £6, £4, £3, £2, and £1. The colliery band has long been the pride of the miner, who has all along given a voluntary weekly contribution from his wages for its upkeep, and it is pleasing to know that the Coal Company directors are now taking an interest in the movement and are doing something practical in the way of assisting it.”

Saturday 17th May was reported as a solemn day in the history of Acharacle Parish. It was the day of the unveiling of the war memorial. Mr Scoular played The Flowers of the Forest.

Stewarts and Lloyds Ltd piping contest

•Sir Bruce Seton

The first annual piping contest organised by Stewarts and Lloyds Ltd took place on 17th May at the Tollcross Works’ Recreation grounds. “The weather conditions were ideal and there was a good attendance. The bands competing were Phoenix, Tollcross and Clyde. The Challenge Trophy presented by the firm was won by Clyde Works Cadet Band. The Challenge Trophy presented by Sir Bruce Seton, Bart, together with gold medal for best piper (own selection), march: Piper P McFarlane, Tollcross; 2nd prize, badge, Piper A Anderson, Clyde. Best Piper (own selection), strathspey and reel: Piper P McFarlane, Tollcross; 2. Piper A Anderson, Clyde. Recruits, March (Own selection) 1. Piper Wm Watson, Clyde; 2. Piper James Mason, Clyde. Side Drum Competition, March, Strathspey and Reel. 1. Drum Sergeant Alex Gillick, Clyde; 2. Drum Corporal John Davidson, Clyde. The judges for piping were Sir Bruce Seton, Bart, Mr Alex Seton and Ex Pipe Major Sutherland. Judge for drumming Ex Drum Major R Walker, HLI. After the various competitions had been gone through the bands were formed up in massed formation and marched the length of the grounds playing Loch Katrine and on halting changed from the march to strathspey and reel, the same being much enjoyed by all present. Thereafter Sir Bruce Seton, Bart was called upon to present the trophies and prizes to the successful competitors. Before so doing he made a few appropriate remarks and complimented the bands and individuals on their splendid performance. When he considered the heavy nature of the work the members were daily engaged in it reflected great credit on the instructors that the bands have reached such a high state of proficiency. He then made the presentation at the conclusion of which he was accorded hearty cheers. On arriving at the west end of Coatbridge the Clyde Cadet Band, headed by one of their members exhibiting the cup, marched to Coatbridge Cross where a large crowd had gathered and on learning the result of the contest gave the lads a great reception. The event next year will be held in Coatbridge district.”

•Sir Bruce Gordon Seton C.B., the ninth Baronet of Abercorn was born 1868. He entered the Indian Medical Service as a Surgeon Lieutenant in 1892. He served on the North-West Frontier in the Waziristan campaign of 1894-95 where he was severely wounded. He also received a medal in the Tochi campaign of 1897-98. During his time in India Seton rose to hold the appointment of Deputy Director-General of the Indian Medical Service. He became a Brevet Colonel on June 13th 1913 and during the War served as the commanding officer in charge of the Kitchener Indian Hospital at Brighton. Colonel Seton eventually retired from the Army in May 1917. His two sons Alexander and Bruce were good amateur players taught by PM William Ross. Sir Bruce Seton died in 1934. He was the co-author of the 1920 book The Pipes of War with John Grant.

Highland Pipers’ Society competition

There was a competition in Edinburgh on the same day, 17th May, ‘The principal events in the 19th annual competition of the Highland Pipers’ Society were held at the RAMC Hall, Gilmore Place, Edinburgh last Saturday afternoon. There was a large attendance of members, including Mr Burn Murdoch, Hon Chief of the Society and Mr Donald Shaw SSC president. The judges of the piping were Mr John Bartholomew, Mr Francis Caird, Mr Nigel MacKenzie and Pipe Major Henry. The judges of dancing were Major Stirling, Major MacKinlay and Mr Nigel MacKenzie. The various events were keenly contested, especially those open to the junior members of the Society. The following were the principal results:  Piobaireachd: 1. W MacLeod, 2. J Duncan, 3. J MacDonald. March: 1. J Duncan, 2. W MacLeod, 3. J Irvine. March, Strathspey and Reel for Challenge Shield: 1. J Duncan, 2. W MacLeod, 3. Ian McIntosh. Special Competition for Boys under 18 years (March): 1. A Mutch, 2. J Duncan, 3. A Macintosh.

•William Gordon Burn Murdoch, born in Edinburgh in 1862, was a painter, travel writer, musician and explorer. He travelled widely including India, Burma, China and both the Arctic and the Antarctic. He joined the Dundee Antarctic Whaling Expedition of 1892-93 as assistant to William Speirs Bruce, recording the voyage in pictures. He was a supporter of the Scottish National Party and a keen piper in theory and practice. He was the first to play the bagpipe in Antarctica. He went on to help Bruce plan the Scottish National Antarctic Expedition of 1902-4, although he did not take part. He published and illustrated several books about his travels. He died in 1939 in Edinburgh.

•W G Burn Murdoch in Antarctica

Cowal Gathering in London in doubt

Then on May 17th: “The proposal to have a second Cowal Gathering at Wembley is off, meantime, so far as the Empire Exhibition officials are concerned. At a meeting of Cowal Gathering Committee the secretary reported that he had received letters from prominent athletes and others expressing their desire to take part in the competitions. Among those so desirous was the Inveraray Shinty Club, holders of the Celtic Cup, suggesting that a match with the Kyles Athletic, holders of the Scottish Cup, would attract the Caledonians in London He had, however, recently received a letter from the management of the Exhibition stating that the proposal to hold a Highland gathering had been abandoned on account of the decision of the railway companies not to grant any concession of fares for competitors etc. The announcement was received with regret and disappointment. It was agreed to approach the ship owners connected with Cowal Gathering with a view to chartering a vessel to run an excursion from Leith to London for the convenience of competitors and others, and to provide meals and sleeping accommodation on board while in London. If the proposal materialises the week’s excursion will take place after the Cowal Gathering on Glasgow Trades Holiday. The winners will be transported to Wembley sometime in September.”

An Unjust Judge tries Oakbank bagpipe thief

In a postscript to the trial and sentence of the Oakbank thief, the Sunday Post on 18th May, in a typical media attempt at humour reported under a headline An Unjust Judge. ‘A man was recently tried for stealing three sets of bagpipes. The news that he wasn’t dismissed with a vote of thanks sounds to me like a miscarriage of justice.’

The Music in the Parks concerts for May 18th in the north east of England included the Tyneside Highland Pipe Band under PM A Thomson in Gosforth Park at 7.30pm.

On 20th May in Princes St Gardens the bands performing during the day included the 4th/5th Royal Scots Pipe Band under PM J Robertson.

The Dundee Courier 19th May reported: “The military church parade of Edinburgh OTC, which is having a weekend training at the Broomfield encampment, yesterday attracted much attention in Montrose as the men marched to and from the Parish Church headed by their pipe band. Rev Hugh Callan occupied the pulpit.”

The same paper reported on the unveiling of the war memorial in Blair Atholl by the Duke of Atholl, whose younger brother was listed as one of the 47 men from the village. The pipers of the Atholl Highlanders under Pipe Major Alexander Stewart, played a lament, after which a dedicatory prayer was offered by Mr Strathearn.

Arniston, Gorebridge and District Pipe Band

The Dalkeith Advertiser on 22nd May reported: “For the ensuing year the following officers and members of committee have been appointed to conduct the affairs of the Arniston, Gorebridge and District Pipe Band.  President: Mr Robert Russell; Pipe Major and Treasurer Mr Edward Pinkman; Secretary: Mr Thomas Chatham; Committee: Messrs Jas Robertson, George Clark, Alex Vickers, Alex Langlands, John S Thomson, James Cornwall.

Cowal School of Pipes on the radio

The radio schedule for the Glasgow station on 22nd May included at 7.57pm to 8.15pm Students from the Cowal School of Pipes. An introductory chat by H S Strafford secretary of Cowal Highland Gathering was followed by a slow air and a March, Strathspey and Reel. The tunes were, My Home, Barren Rocks of Aden, Maggie Cameron and High Road to Linton.

Bagpipes save a life

The Shields Daily News 23rd May reported: “A correspondent who recently addressed a meeting in Carlisle at which Mr James Brown, Lord High Commissioner for Scotland was present, ventured to tell the story of the Scottish patient in an English hospital. In order to save his life someone played the bagpipes to him. He recovered but all the other patients died. ‘So the English patients all died, did they?’ said Mr Brown, who rose to speak immediately afterwards. ‘Well, ladies and gentlemen, all I can say is that they deserved to!’.”

Helensburgh Pipe Band

The Oban Times on 24th May had several articles relating to piping events. The first was: “Under the auspices of the Helensburgh Pipe Band a large and influential Executive Committee is being got together to resuscitate the Highland Gathering which has not taken place there for some years. It has been decided to hold the Gathering in July. Mr MacKinnon, who is secretary of the Band as well as of the local Clan Colquhoun and Highland Association, is meantime acting in the same capacity in connection with the Games. It is understood that the Band has been engaged by the British Broadcasting Coy to play some time in June with a chat on Clan Sentiment by Lieut Sir Iain Colquhoun, their popular chief and hon president.”

It was also reported that the War Memorial in Strachur had been unveiled by Lady George Campbell. The Pipe Band and a bugler from the 8th Argylls were present.

Piobaireachd Society of Scotland piping classes

A photograph and report also appeared. “Boys Class in Portree. Under the auspices of the Piobaireachd Society of Scotland classes for instruction in bagpipe playing are being held in various parts of the Highlands. Pipe Major W MacDonald, Melness, Sutherland, a distinguished exponent of piping, is one of the teachers engaged by the Society to carry out this work. In the picture Pipe Major MacDonald is seen with the members of his class. Under his skilful guidance the class has made great progress in the art of piping.”

Next was a short report of an entertainment at Tiroran at which the musicians were Messrs Lamont, Macpherson, MacCalman, Thomson, Macgillivray on the bagpipes assisted by Mrs MacFadyen, Kinloch Hotel and Mr D Macpherson, Tiroran on the melodeon.

Again on the subject of Cowal the paper reported Mr H S Strafford, secretary of the Cowal Highland Gathering has received an invitation from the manager of Wembley Exhibition to come to London and have a discussion over the holding of a great Highland Gathering during the Glasgow Fair Week.’

‘Piper Scares Ex-Kaiser. Devil in Kitchen at Doorn.’

Around the 25th this appeared in several papers: “A Highlander resident in Holland, recently succeeded in disturbing the ‘All-Highest’s’ tranquillity at Doorn. One morning he cycled to Doorn with his bagpipes on the carrier of his machine. The castle was well guarded, but he found his way to within a stone’s throw of the house. Striking up the pipes he rendered The Campbell are Coming, The Devil in the Kitchen and the Reel of Tulloch. Challenged by an ill-looking type of German, the Scot continued to play. The German, who turned out to be the ex-Kaiser’s doctor, disappeared when he saw no notice was being taken. Out of the house came a party, all talking excitedly. The piper now thought that he had created enough sensation, and, casing his pipes, departed just as the village police came on the scene.”

On 26th May the Northern Whig and Belfast Post reported: “At Campbell College the Empire Day celebrations owing to inclement weather were held indoors. At 11.30am the Officers’ Training Corps formed up in the central hall, and prayers having been read the Union Jack was broken and saluted. The National Anthem having been sung a number of selections were rendered by the Corps’ Pipe Band.”

The Empire day parade

The Empire day parade at the Wembley Exhibition was reported in detail in many papers, the focus being mainly of the King and Queen and others who attended to watch the parade which included a massed pipe band of 100 pipers from the Scottish regiments.

The Royal Tournament was also held and afterwards the Aberdeen Press and Journal reported: “When Olympia was being cleared of all the military paraphernalia used in the Royal Tournament, I met two or three ex-members of the Gordon Highlanders. One of them was Mr George Stuart, a native of Huntly, who was formerly a pipe major in the regiment. The thing that impressed him most of all the recent events in London was the playing of 100 pipers in the Stadium at the Empire Exhibition. It was the finest piping, he said, that he had ever heard in all his wide experience. He told me, by the way, that the pipe major who led this famous band has Aberdeen connections. He is senior pipe major Allan, of the Highland Light Infantry, who is an old Oakbank schoolboy. Pipe Major Stuart is quite a well known figure in the Scots colony in London. He was formerly in service at the Tower, and is frequently to be seen at banquets standing behind the chair of Sir Ian Hamilton, the Colonel in Chief of his old regiment.”

Empire Day in Oban

In Oban Empire Day was celebrated with a gathering of boy scouts and girl guides. The boys and girls assembled at Dunollie main lodge and headed by piper James Stewart of the Oban Pipe Band marched to the grounds where they were inspected by Colonel MacDougal of MacDougal. After the ceremony they all adjourned to the house where tea was served. This was followed by sports. Selections were played at intervals by Piper Stewart.

Cheerful News

On 25th May the Sunday Post had another attempt at humour: “Scotland and bagpipes will never leave one another, declares a weekly journal. It is nice in these troubled times to get a little bit of cheerful news like this.”

City of Newcastle Highland Pipe Band

On 27th May the North Mail and Newcastle Chronicle reported that an error in the official programme for the Empire Day parade the name of one of the bands was given as the Tyneside Highland Pipe Band when it should have been the City of Newcastle Highland Pipe Band (7th Cadet Company Newcastle Batt Boys’ Brigade Old Boys).

On 29th May in Northern Ireland the carnival promoted by the Glentoran Football Club included a fancy dress parade through the various parts of the city. Leading the parade was a pipe band organised by Mr John McGrillan and under the direction of Pipe Major W Anderson.

Discord Over Pipe Band. Cowdenbeath Squabble. Players Resent Interference By Committee.

The 29th May Evening Telegraph had the large headline above. The article read: “The principal discussion at Cowdenbeath today is the serial drama of the Pipe Band. Pipe Major Brown of the band made certain alterations in the arrangements of the band, proposing a leading side drummer. The drummer left the band, but appealed with his story to the Committee of Management, and the committee sent him back to the band with the instructions that he had to take his usual place.

“The Pipe Major resigned, but the committee would not accept the resignation. Later the Pipe Major’s resignation was accepted, on condition that he would remain in charge until his successor was appointed.

“He, however, would not agree to that, and the band again resigned en bloc, but the committee will accept neither the resignation nor the pipes and dress they wish to hand back.

“That is the story of the affair of Cowdenbeath Pipe Band, which is occupying so much attention today. This morning large posters with a very tragic headline, “Life or Death,” were everywhere displayed, and a public meeting is called for tonight, when the public will hear the true facts of the case. It is likely to be a very lively meeting.

“Sergeant Piper McDade, who was the principal speaker on behalf of the band, in an interview today said that they were determined to put the whole story before the public. They had a very efficient pipe major, who was the only person who should have the power to arrange the band as he thought fit. The Committee, in his opinion, had no business to deal with the personnel of that band. When asked what their intentions were, he said that they had no desire to bring an end to the band; in fact, if things went against them, they would continue as a private band. However, there were £400 worth of dresses, and these surely would not be allowed to rot.

“The miners of the community are taking a very active interest in the dispute, as the band is maintained principally from contributions by them, deducted at the colliery office once per week.”

More news followed on 31st May: “Cowdenbeath Band Dispute.  A partial settlement has been arrived at in the pipe band dispute at Cowdenbeath. At a conference held yesterday afternoon between the Band Committee and the committee appointed from the general public it was arranged that the band get the use of the dresses and fulfil their engagements at Glencraig today and at Perth on Monday on the occasion of the Fife Miners’ Association gala.”

On Friday evening, 30th May, the 3rd Airdrie Company of the Boys’ Brigade held a grand concert and display in connection with the termination of the session and for the raising of company funds. As part of the entertainment, there was piping from Private Charlie Martin, and dancing by two little girls.

The Piobaireachd, As Performed in The Highlands for Ages until 1808

The Oban Times on Saturday 31st May had a review of the book mentioned in previous months, The Piobaireachd, As Performed in The Highlands for Ages until 1808: “An event of high importance in the piping world is the publication of the late Lieutenant Ian McLennan’s splendid work on The Piobaireachd. Mr McLennan, whose recent death is widely deplored, was a man of mark, and an authority in all matters relating to piping. Piobaireachd represents a classic branch of the art, and here the genius of Mr McLennan is masterly and expressive. Mr McLennan aimed at giving Ceol Mor as MacCrimmon played it. After years of study in his leisure hours he produced a system which yielded up easily, beautifully and effectively the treasure notes of the MacCrimmons. He saw the proof sheets of his great work now published by his son, and his instructions and desires have been carried out as faithfully as possible. Some 18 airs are here set down under the system of which Mr McLennan is the exponent.

“We trust to return to this important subject shortly. Meantime it may be noted that the fine compilation is published at half a crown by John McLennan, 26 Arden Street, Edinburgh, and may be had from his son, George S McLennan, Bagpipe Maker, 3 Bath Street, Aberdeen.”

The Dundee Courier on 31st May reported that the pupils of Miss Ada Taylor had given their annual exhibition of dancing in the Foresters’ Hall. An innovation from the musical point of view was a combination of bagpipes, piano and violin being used for the Highland dancing and the novelty was much appreciated. Pipe Major James Sword and Messrs James Barrie and James Bailey were the instrumentalists.

The surrey Advertiser, 31st May, reported, In connection with the Woking Habitation of the Young Helpers’ League concerts were given at Christ Church Hall and the Wesleyan Church on Wednesday by Dr Barnardo’s Musical Boys. The boys gave capital selections on such instruments as hand bells, tubular bells, xylophones, bagpipes and mandolins. The gathering was presided over by the Rev R B Jolly.

On Saturday 31st at the County Armagh police Sports the band of the Royal Ulster Constabulary under the direction of Mr John Ferguson, and the Battlehill Pipe Band supplied musical programmes.

A new public park was opened in West Calder on Saturday 31st: “The park, which is centrally situated, has been acquired by the Parish Council, and equipped with a bandstand, swings, maypole etc for the children. West Calder Public Band and West Calder and District Pipe Band played selections during the day.’

On Saturday 31st May there were two pipe band contests; one at Alloa and the other at Glencraig. Several papers had a similar report: “In Lord Mar’s Alloa Park three thousand people were present at the annual contest promoted by the Mar Pipe Band. Eleven bands competed and last year’s first and second prize winners were reversed. The result was: 1. Cup and £12. Millhall, Stirling, PM MacDonald, 2. 37. Clan MacRae Society, Glasgow, PM Stevenson, 3. £5. Wallacestone, Stirlingshire, PM Sharp, 4. £3. 7th Argylls, Stirling, PM Ormiston. Only one band entered for the Juvenile Competition, namely, Polmont Boys, PM Studdert, and they were presented with a cup. The judges were PM Ross and DM MacFarlane, Stirling Castle, Mr J Russell, Carronshore, Mr R Keir, Townhill. The massed bands played the march Highland Laddie. Captain Theodore Arrol, Arran, acted as Chief and Mrs Arrol presented the prizes.”

The Fife Free Press reported on the second contest: “Glencraig Public Prize Pipe Band Committee held a successful pipe band contest and amateur sports meeting at Bore Park, Glencraig, on Saturday, when, despite the wet weather, there was a large turnout. Ten pipe bands took part in the competition, the judge of which was Pipe-Major W Ross, Edinburgh, late of Scots Guards. The competing bands were: Cowdenbeath; Lochore and Crosshill; Kelty and Blairadam; Michael Colliery; East Wemyss; Burntisland and District; St Andrews United Service Association; Kirkcaldy and District Caledonian; Kirkcaldy Forth Works. The first prize carries with it the custody of the Wilson-Clyde Challenge Trophy. The awards were as follows, Band Contest: 1. Cowdenbeath (Pipe-Major Brown); 2. Kirkcaldy Caledonian; 3. Kirkcaldy Forth Works; 4. Kelty and Blairadam. Best Bass Drummer- Piper P Haddow, Cowdenbeath. Amateur Solo Piping (Marches):1. Piper J Jackson, Glencraig; 2. Pipe-Major Davidson, Michael Colliery; 3. Piper Walkingshaw, Lochore; Solo Piping (Strathspey and Reel) – 1. Piper Jackson; 2. PM Davidson; 3. Piper McGhee, Lochore. Challenge Medal for most points in piping: Piper J Jackson. A feature of the afternoon was the massed band parade round the enclosure, all the competing bands taking part.”

Other papers reported on the success or otherwise of their local band: “The members of the Comrie Pipe Band journeyed to Alloa last Saturday and took part in a pipe band contest held in the Mar Park. There was an entry of eleven bands, including the leading bands in Scotland, and although our local lads did not figure in the prize list, they made a very creditable show, and gained much valuable information.”

“On Saturday last the Wallacestone Pipe Band, competing at Alloa, was successful in carrying of the third prize, £5, out of an entry of 11 bans. Such a result is very gratifying to the whole district and speaks highly of the endeavours of Pipe Major John Sharp in maintaining the band at such a high state of efficiency.”

“Local Pipe Band’s Success. Barry, Ostere and Shepherd’s Forth Works Pipe Band, which has been resuscitated this year after a lapse of ten years, achieved a notable success at Glencraig competition on Saturday, winning third prize out of an entry of ten bands. This being their first attempt at a contest of this kind makes the performance all the more meritorious, and the band and its leader, Pipe-Major Robert Innes, are to be heartily congratulated. On Wednesday evening the band played in the Beveridge Park for the first time since 1914.”

Next came news of a funeral: “Captain Malcolm Drummond of Megginch Castle, Errol, and of Kilspindie, was laid to rest on Saturday in the Chapel grounds near his Perthshire home, side by side with his fathers.

“At Megginch Castle the remains of the deceased lay in the hall wrapped in the Drummond tartan and surmounted by his sword, medals, and military cap, testimony of deceased’s long and meritorious army service in Egypt and elsewhere as a Captain in the Grenadier Guards. The service in the home was conducted by the Very Rev Provost P M Smythe, St Ninian’s Cathedral, Perth and the Rev James Strachan, minister of the parish church of Kilspindie.

From the house the bier was preceded by four Atholl Highlanders, Pipe Major Stewart, Corporal Irvine, and Privates C Duthie and P Wilkie, who played Lochaber No More. The carrying party was drawn from the tenants and workers on the estate. The pipers marched at a slow pace along the pathway through the woods which led to the chapel. At the gate Provost Smythe pronounced the sentences. Following the interment the choir of Errol Parish Church sang O Paradise, O Paradise and Jesu gentlest Saviour while the pipers played The Flowers of the Forest, the whole creating a moving scene.”

Pipes stolen in Castlereagh

Another bagpipe theft was reported: “In the Belfast Police Court on Saturday 31st May Matthew McCann (or Long), Roundhill Street, was charged with having converted to his own use a uniform suit and a set of bagpipes belonging to the trustees of the Castlereagh Pipe Band. It was stated that accused joined the band on 9th July 1923, and was supplied with the uniform and pipes. On 21st December he left the city, taking the uniform and pipes with him. He was arrested at Brecon (Wales) last week while playing the bagpipes on the street. Accused was returned for trial at the City Commission.”

On Saturday afternoon, 31st May at Blinkbonny Home a two hour concert programme of reels, marches and strathspeys was submitted by the Camelon Pipe Band and was greatly enjoyed by the inmates. The Chairman of the Home thanked the band for sacrificing their Saturday afternoon to go there and play.

Pipe Band equipped in Bathgate

A new BB band was to be formed in Bathgate: “For some time the Bathgate Coy Boys’ Brigade, assisted by a large circle of friends, have been engaged in a series of efforts to raise sufficient money to equip a Pipe Band. The principal venture, which took the form of a Cake, Candy, and Jumble Sale was held in the Co-operative Hall, Bathgate, on Saturday 30th May and was opened by Rev John Lindsay, St John’s UF Church. There was a highly varied display of saleable goods and the well stocked stalls reflected great credit on the enterprise of the convener Mrs A D Gorman and her energetic committee.”

A week later it was reported, “The Bathgate Boys’ Brigade are to get ‘ta pagpipes’ all right. The sum raised at their cake and candy sale last Saturday, supplemented by the proceeds of other projects, will be sufficient to meet the cost of pipes and drums. Although it will be some time before the newly instituted Pipe Band will reach a stage of proficiency to warrant regular public appearances, the boys are hopeful that this year’s camp will be enlivened by the skirl of the pipes.”

Also in Bathgate: “The annual fancy dress parade in aid of the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary was held in Bathgate on Saturday last, and despite the fact that the weather conditions could hardly be described as congenial, the demonstration proved most successful. The procession was accompanied on the walk by Bathgate Public Band, the Scottish Society Pipe Band and Torphichen Pipe Band, each of which gave their services gratuitously and their presence greatly enlivened the afternoon’s proceedings.”

Glasgow cenotaph unveiled by Earl Haig

On the last day of May the Glasgow cenotaph in George Square was unveiled by Earl Haig in the presence of a large crowd. Buglers of the HLI sounded the Last Post and HLI pipers played a lament.